The weekend is looming and if you’ve found yourself with nothing to do, grab a few friends and take to the open road for some incredible scenery, food/pints galore and a dip in the ocean.

We are lucky here in Ireland that we boast some of the most incredible scenery in the world. Our winding country roads, proximity to the coast, and tiny size means even the most remote parts of the island can be reached within a few hours. In a place like Ireland where rain is pretty much a sure thing, there is nothing better than a car full of sweets, some tunes on the radio and a good auld scenic drive.

1. The Wild Atlantic Way 

Location: Co. Cork – Co. Donegal

Distance: 2500km

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Quickly becoming a world-renowned route, the Wild Atlantic Way is the roadtrip that you have to make at least once in your lifetime. At 2500km, it is the worlds longest signed coastal drive. Starting at the bottom in Kinsale, Co. Cork, it winds its way up along the west of Ireland hugging the coastline all the way up to Inishowen, Co. Donegal. To really do it justice, take a few weeks to explore all of its nooks and crannies to discover its hidden gems.

If time is in short supply, we have plenty more to whet your appetite. 

2. The Burren Scenic Loop Drive

Location: Co. Clare

Distance: 100km

The unusual limestone landscape of the Burren is like something from another planet and a must see attraction. The UNESCO World Heritage site is a haven for rare flora and fauna that blooms amongst the rocks. Stop for a coffee at one of the many quaint towns en route, like Lisdoonvarna and Kilfenora. Explore the ring forts, megalithic tombs, standing stones, castles and cairns littered along the route. Stay the night in Doolin, stop for a surf in Lahinch, take a walk on Fanore Beach, then veer off and head out to the main event, the Cliffs of Moher.

3. Yeats County and Lough Gill Scenic Loop

 Location: Co. Sligo

Distance: 185km

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If you looking for more than just breathtaking scenery on your trip, and want to soak up some knowledge aswell, then this is the route for you. The Yeats County and Lough Gill Scenic Loop is steeped in Irish mythology and history, pull in and climb Knocknarea Mountain to see Queen Maeve’s Cairn. See the places that inspired W.B Yeats to write such perfect prose; like the Ilse of Inisfree, and Benbullben Mountain.

4. The Ring Of Kerry

Location: Co. Kerry

Distance: 170km

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This is Ireland’s most noted scenic drive for a reason. Take your time and cruise around the Iveragh Peninsula. Pull in at Ladies View, Moll’s Gap, Derrynane Beach, the Skellig Ring Road and the Gap of Dunloe for the very best views. It will take about five hours to complete the loop, but if you have the time stretch it out and encompass the Dingle Peninsula drive into your itinerary. There you will see the old Ireland you read about in folklore. The high mountain passes, breathtaking coastal views, the great beaches, and the stunning Blasket Islands.

15 of the best stops along the wild atlantic way

5. The Copper Coast Drive

Location: Co. Waterford

Distance: 166km

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Tourism in Ireland tends to revolve around the West Coast, but the South East has plenty to offer the Sunday driver too. The Copper Coast Scenic Drive has just as many cliffs, bays and coves for the curious explorer. There is also the Copper Coast Geopark, which is a UNESCO Global Geopark that is well worth doing. Volcanoes, oceans, deserts and ice sheets all combined over 460 million years to create the physical foundation of the natural and cultural landscapes of the area that you see today.

6. The Causeway Coastal Route

Location: Belfast – Derry

Distance: 194km

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Make your route up to the Giant’s Causeway the best one it can be, drive along the coastline of Northern Ireland. Pull over to walk across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge to Carrick Island and to see the ruins of Dunluce Castle. See the waterfalls in the Glenariff Forest Park, the limestone cliffs on White Rocks Beach and if you are a Game of Thrones fan, make sure to visit the Dark Hedges. Then there’s the Gobbins and the Glens of Antrim… basically, there’s a lot to do, so put this on your Irish Bucket list.

7. The Wicklow Mountains 

Location: Co. Wicklow

Distance: 97km

Wicklow is known as the garden of Ireland for a reason, it is probably the greenest place you will ever see. There are two route choices here; the Wicklow Gap or the Sally Gap, both equally stunning. The Sally Gap is the better known of the two, with views of Lough Tay from a height. Park up at Glendalough and take a stroll. If you have time don the hiking boots and take on the Spinc, a tough 3.5 hour hike that offers panoramic views of the National Park.

8. The Atlantic Drive, Achill Island

Locations: Co. Mayo

Distance: 150km

The Atlantic Drive is a coastal drive in County Mayo. It is remote and inspiring, with incredible views of Clew Bay, Croagh Patrick, the Maamturks in Connemara and the Currane Peninsula. Achill’s Atlantic Drive is a 19km loop but build it into a bigger roadtrip starting in Westport, and add on a bit at the end by revving up and over a cliffside to the secluded Keem Bay. It is a must visit. If you have your bike loaded on the back of the car make sure to stretch your legs and take a spin on the Western Greenway.

The ultimate Irish bucket list 

9. Connemara coast drive

Location: Co. Galway

Distance: 123km

Cruise through the wilds of Connemara. Start in Galway and head for the coast and Clifden’s famous Skye Road for the best views of Inisturk and the Twelve Bens. Plus there are several megalithic tombs, Standing Stones, and Promontory Forts scattered along the way. Then if the tide is right, go explore Omey Island, which is reached by driving across a sandy causeway.

10. Mourne Coastal Route

 Location: Belfast – Newry

Distance: 164km

The Mourne Mountains are the inspiration behind CS Lewis’ Narnia and a mountain bikers and hikers nirvana. Take the Coastal Route for the best views. Check out Slieve Gullion Forest Park, which offers stunning views of the surrounding volcanic landscape. If you have time on your hands, take a few hours to tackle Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland’s highest mountain. Spend a night at the foot of the mountains in Newcastle. Take a walk along the promenade and pause for a moment to take in the views of the Isle of Man.

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By Orla O'Muiri

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